Outdoorsy types and adrenaline seekers, listen up: there’s plenty to enjoy if you look up...
We’ve all dreamt about being able to fly—and the Eden Project in Cornwall offers an experience that’s as thrillingly close to the real thing as you can get this side of the Land of Nod.
At an eye-watering 740 metres, Skywire is the longest zip wire in Europe. Simply don a fetching red jumpsuit, goggles and a hard hat, and you can hurtle head-down the wire at an exhilarating 60 miles per hour. The “flight” takes you right over the top of the Eden Project’s biomes, and the views of the surrounding gardens really do make you feel more like a bird than a human.
Admittedly, it’s all over rather quickly, but there’s plenty else to see at the site—and what better way to bring yourself back down to earth than by taking a trip through a rainforest?
Visit edenproject.com for details.
You can sit in a plane, jump out of one and—if you can believe it—you can even walk across one while in flight. The Breitling Wingwalkers are a display team of experienced pilots and brave (and beautiful) ladies who perform atop the wings.
The team tour the country during air-show season, putting on a spectacle of “aerosuperbatics” and human acrobatics.
But ordinary, less bendy folk can get on the wings too. From a First World War airfield in the Cotswolds, visitors are attached (very securely) to the wings of the plane and propelled to the skies to experience flypasts, zoom climbs and steep dives.
Says pilot Steve Hicks, “We fly all sorts of people on the wing of our aeroplanes. I’ve even flown a 91-year-old...and he clambered on to the wing nearly as fast as I can!”
Visit breitlingwingwalkers.com for details.
Running off hillsides might not sound like the ideal pastime, but the floating through the air that follows may make you think otherwise. Paragliders are known for being a friendly bunch and, with active clubs up and down the country, it’s likely that there’s a vibrant group near you.
Those who live in (or are visiting) the Peak District can make the most of the 30-year-old Parapente Paragliding School. They offer well-designed and comprehensive courses, covering intricacies of meteorology and air movement before moving to practical lessons.
All the instructors have years of experience and lessons are staggered—so any fear is gently blown away as you progress from low-level hops to cross-country travelling.
Visit fly-paragliders.co.uk for details.
This is something of a marmite activity: some can’t think of anything worse than hurling themselves out of a plane; others can’t think of anything more exhilarating. Our opinion is that if you are going to free-fall from 15,000 feet, you may as well have a nice view on the way down.
Skydive Northwest is one of the country’s longest-established skydiving centres (which is, let’s be honest, reassuring). Visitors can choose to do a tandem jump—when you’re comfortingly attached to a professional—or you can jump from a little lower in the air by yourself using a “static line”, which opens up your parachute automatically. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic aerial view of Morecambe Bay and the glittering Lake District below as you descend.
Visit skydivenorthwest.co.uk for details.
With mountains, lush greenery and breathtaking coastlines, the Scottish Highlands can boast some of the most stunning views in the world. The trouble is, they’re not easily accessible—unless, of course, you go by air.
Fly Scenic Scotland offers ten tours that cover Argyll and the West Coast of Scotland. Depending on the fly path you pick, you can zip across the Bridge over the Atlantic (also known as Clachan Bridge), zoom over Castle Stalker and even encircle Ben Nevis.
If you look really closely, you may just be able to spy a determined climber or two. The pilots at Fly Scenic are renowned for putting even the most nervous flyers at ease. For those who get a taste for the high life, there’s even an option to take their own flying lessons in the region.
Visit flyscenicscotland.co.uk for details.
A spot of good old-fashioned kite flying is another great way to appreciate the vastness of the sky—and for this excursion, you can keep both feet firmly rested on the ground. Conveniently, Britain is Europe’s windiest country, so there are plenty of blustery places ideal for launching your own colourful, homemade contraption.
One site that’s certainly worth a visit is the remote Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire. Widely regarded as one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches, its expansive white sands make a brilliant runway for a launch and the surfing thermals will keep your kite flying for minutes on end.
There’s something wonderfully meditative about mastering a kite—and if the exertion gets you a little hot, you can always cool off in the clean water of the bay. The gentle waves make the pristine waters ideal for paddling.
Visit visitpembrokeshire.com for details.
Britain now boasts over 100 “Dark Sky Discovery” sites—places that are especially good for stargazing during a clear night. The first class of dark sky is the kind you’d find in the middle of the Australian outback. Our small (and densely populated) isle may not be able to offer that degreeof darkness, but it does offer some sterling class-two and -three locations.
One of these is at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre at Oxford Island, near Craigavon. City dwellers (or those close to much light pollution) can typically see 100 stars with the naked eye; in a cloudless night at Lough Neagh, gazers can not only see The Milky Way, but also Andromeda—our nearest neighbouring galaxy that’s home to more than 200 million stars. Take a thermos and while hours away contemplating the universe.
Visit oxfordisland.com for details.
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